“Only Love Today” and Comfort zone

I started reading Only Love Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford”. It is an absolutely amazing book. So much so, as I was reading it, I found myself repeatedly saying, “Yes!” “I know!” “I do that.” and so on. I set it down for a few weeks as this way of life is truly etched in my being.

Recently, I pushed my son out of his comfort zone to do something he had never done before and it didn’t go as I hoped. I have learned not to be attached to outcomes but his strong negative reaction and feedback caught me off guard. I sadly, took his reaction personally, causing me to react negatively and I struggled to be a compassionate listener for him. I could even see my overreaction and the negative dynamic I was feeding yet I could not stay connected to my wise mind and heart and be there for him as I usually am. This made me feel even worse.

To put things in perspective, only 20 hours had passed since the initial triggering event occurred till the time it took me to feel at ease with it, and I am going through some physical health issues thus unusually wore out. In fact, I was on my way to the hospital for an iron fusion, when I decided to grab the book, “Only Love Today” as my reading material for appointment and travels. I had a feeling it could help ground me and get me back to my center. As soon as I got on the ferry and opened the book to this oh-so-relevant reminder:

 

 

I love synchronicity! Synchronicity is when events seem to somehow magically connect to one another and take on some meaning that provides guidance as they relate to our current emotional states and inner experiences. So there I was on the ferry, with tears streaming down my face, knowing how every word of this is true and exactly what I have been trying to get my son to understand yet my negative reaction fueled our deepest fears.

The more I sat with this, the more tears came but I was acutely aware I was in a public space. I was uncomfortable and vulnerable. Even more synchronous is this uncomfortable and vulnerable situation relates to my son’s recent experience and journey. I am a female and afraid to cry and be emotional, it is even 100 times worse for him. He seems to have inherited my highly sensitive trait. We feel and process deeply as well as absorb and internalize sensory information at overwhelming rates. We are like sponges and find it to be a monumental task to stop the absorption. The best way I have found to slow it down is to take deep breaths, to non-judgementally notice and connect to all my senses, and send compassionate messages to myself and all those involved that counteract the deep fears and irrational core beliefs.

Here’s another quote I really enjoying during these times of transitions:

“This week I invite you to surrender to the cycles of your life and your reality. Accept the beauty of where you are in your lifecycle, whether you are cleansing, purging and renewing or growing, expanding or even ending. Love yourself as you move through change and transition. There is no ‘perfect’ way to navigate through it all. It’s okay to scream and have a temper tantrum if that’s what it takes to get to the other side. Releasing that energy only makes room for clarity and peace. Each step in your journey is really about growth and expansion…May you remember this week to Trust and know you are fully supported on your journey and may you remember that deep underneath all of this experience is really only the grandest expression of pure, unconditional Love.” ~Karen Curry

Change, even when for the better, is uncomfortable and difficult no matter what you do. Like the growing pains of a developing child, their muscles and bones ache from all the quick growing yet they are getting taller and stronger. You can even do everything “right” and it will still cause distress as there are so many variables out of your control. This is the crux of life, learning how to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. I know that all negative and painful events have inherent value in our lives which will shine through in time when we least expect it.  All the reasons why I made the conscious choice to push my son outside his comfort zone were valid. As hard as it is to know a choice I made upset my child, it is impossible to avoid negativity and I am would not be doing my son any favors by overprotecting him and robbing him of these opportunities to struggle through, grow, and learn from.

Deep breaths, baby steps, embrace fears and love MORE ❤

where the magic happens

You can learn more about me and my services at WeCounsel

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you.

❤ Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

 

Rethinking the Easter Bunny…

Oh, Easter…my daughter has been egging me (pun intended) about Easter decorations and festivities for weeks now yet sadly I have felt irritated by her need for all of it. I know I am responsible and for good reason and intent. I have been providing magical Easters her whole life because growing up, the Easter bunny and St. Nick coming were some of my most favorite memories. The special time of the year where all my five siblings and parents worked together to create a magical experience. I have no sad story where I learned they weren’t real. Yet for some reason, when I became more conscious about my parenting and I moved a world away from my family of origin, I started to question everything. I began feeling like I was lying to my son and it felt ingenuine.

I had realized all this holiday hullaballoo was a ploy to get us to buy stuff and it hurt me to play the part. I was just about to tell my partner and family that I was done with the charades. I would no longer take part in the Easter bunny or Santa Claus.  About that same time, my son came home from a magical Easter celebration with his Steiner school. His teacher spent all this time to put “actual” rabbit feet prints on his desk, with a special egg hunt and chocolate eggs. The smile on his face and the joy that emanated from his being was unbelievable. Here was a boy who in the span of three years lost three baby-siblings, three dogs and two cats, his most beloved pets who we needed to rehome for our international move. He moved from the only place he’s ever lived to a new country where they struggled to understand his speech and mannerisms.  Those magical rabbit prints seem to bring light to him where he had been cracked. It made me second guess my decision to end the Easter Bunny and Santa celebrations. I like to make my decisions from a place of love and not fear. I was reminded of what these times meant to me and how I never felt lied to or hurt. I only felt love and joy, so I decided I had no right to deprive my son and future children of this experience, especially when it was so special for me.

My current dread for my daughter’s pressure to perform these duties was coming from a place of fear and stress. I am about to have surgery and a bit wore out. I had lost touch with the magic and was annoyed that it was the consumerism part she seemed to be enjoying most. Everything I do must have meaning so I was conflicted because as much as I love Jesus, we do not celebrate him like how this holiday does. I also now live in the southern hemisphere where it is Autumn so the whole fertility and Spring aspect doesn’t seem to fit. And the eggs here are brown!?…Not the easiest to dye like how I remember. I was processing my feelings aloud with my son, who is now a 13-year wise soul acknowledged my feelings and asked me some reflective questions. Talking with him reminded me why I made the conscious chose to continue celebrating.

So today, I set up the dyes, bought the special treats and made the baskets to “secretly” fill tonight. Now, I still need to align with my beliefs thus I “reduce, reuse and recycle” by limiting what I buy, choose fair-trade chocolate and make the decorations and baskets with my kids. My family gladly pulled away from their video screen to partake. For one hour, we bonded whilst dying 10 eggs and making decorations. It was pure joy and attention. Our tradition is to keep hiding the eggs for endless Easter egg hunts and more family fun. This is why we do this every year… It has become a rhythm of our collective soul, a constant in our life, something to look forward to and count on no matter what. I strongly believe we all could do with more of these mindful moments. This time is precious and worth the extra effort and attention.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun”     –Winnie The Pooh.

Here’s another post I wrote about Negative thoughts, Easter, and Rising Again

Positive Reframe on Risk-Taking

“If children feel safe, they can take risks, ask questions, make mistakes, learn to trust, share their feelings, and grow.” ~Alfie Kohn

I ran across this article from NPR Is It Time To Bring Risk Back Into Our Kids’ Playgrounds? and I say ‘Yes’ and not just at playgrounds but in life! Risk-taking is a healthy, life-long skill which builds confidence and competence, especially when kids are younger as their brains are doing the most development and the consequences are typically smaller. Overprotecting inhibits natural growth and resilience. How are kids suppose to learn if they can’t experience the decision-making process and the consequences of those choices? There is also no need to punish or add more shame to these experiences like the sadly common reaction of lectures and “I told you so” or “You should know better”.

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My daughter rock climbed to the top.

Children learn when allowed to feel the full range of emotions and natural consequences of the experience and have the presence of a nurturing and responsive adult who can hold space for them as they process their own thoughts, feelings, and actions as well as gently guide the child to their own wisdom. I also recommended ‘scaffolding’ whereby you break new skills into manageable and reasonable steps as well as creating opportunities that are just out of their comfort zone yet within reach of their skill level and have supports in place. Even knowing this, I still get tripped up and my fears make me overreact. My interference sends the message that I don’t trust my kids and that I can’t handle my emotions.

Fortunately, my kids and I have such a secure relationship that they can tell me when I am interfering and I back off and trust them. They really know what they are capable of and want to learn. And when they ask for help from me on things I know they are capable of but are frustrated or unmotivated, and I am in a regulated state, I say, “I trust you to work it out and I wouldn’t want to rob you of the joy you’ll get when you figure it out:)” They don’t always like that response yet they have been able to experience the joy and trust so accept it. They also know that I would be right there for them when they truly need it. If I am in a dysregulated state, then I tend to go off on my emotions to which they reply, “You can just say ‘No’ mom. I don’t need to hear all that.” If we are both dysregulated, then we each react out of our own stress response and unable to connect until one is calm enough. Deep breaths, baby steps and enjoy the ride of parenting and embracing the child within ❤

Here are some related resources:

https://www.backwoodsmama.com/2018/02/stop-telling-kids-be-careful-and-what-to-say-instead.html

http://childnature.ca/when-you-want-to-say-be-careful/

https://1000hoursoutside.com/1/post/2019/03/the-hidden-risks-of-avoiding-risky-play.html

Here is a link to a free download of the book No Fear: Growing up in a risk-averse society by Tim Gill  https://rethinkingchildhood.com/no-fear/

Take Wonderful Care of Yourself and Family!

Debra

Positive Reframe Online Services at WeCounsel

Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

The missing ingredient to parenting challenges…

If you have followed my page then you would know that when it comes to parenting challenges, I highly advocate for self-soothing, emotional intelligence, connection, and collaborative problem solving (check out How To Get Calm and Collaborative & Proactive Solutions for more information). As I have mastered these skills, which have made a tremendous difference in my relationship with my kids, and upon further reflection, I noticed that there was still something else integral to their well-being. It was something I was lacking in various situations as I was able to be calm and empathetic yet they were still extra challenging or losing it.

Fortunately, I discovered what it was: self-confidence.

If I have any shred of doubt or ambivalence in my self or my decision, my kids will attack incessantly as they are confident with what they want and can sense my weakness. Or they absolutely crumble with the overwhelmingness of making a decision they do not feel ready to make and terrified of doing something that could risk failure or disappoint me.

When I have alignment of my intentions, thoughts, feelings, and actions, then there is clarity and certainty in my responses. When I trust myself and my decisions, then my kids just get it. You can feel their calm and acceptance even if they are not happy with the decision. They trust me and feel secure. It feels like magic. Now, if only I could feel confident all the time, which fortunately is where self-compassion comes into to help 🙂

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

Getting on the same page…

My partner and I recently celebrated 20 years of marriage, or as  like to joke, 20 years of hiss and bliss, jeers and cheers, and ups and downs. Unconditional love is amazing yet commitment to it to is hard. The inherent reward is hidden in the gut-wrenching process of self-improvement, intense discourse, and repair.  It has taken great effort and positive intentions to heal past wounds, un-learn negative conditioning, rewrite narratives and resolve many, many conflicts. We have traversed serious medical issues, grieved babies, lost dreams, financial woes, and international moves.

I liken the development of our relationship to being from different sections in a library and we met in the music section. It felt exhilarating to meet someone who liked the same music as me along with some other interests. Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone anymore, like someone got me. We connected, we danced, we found our groove, then life happened, reality set in, stressors, triggers, negative events, and new experiences. Gradually, I realized that my partner likes other music that I can’t stand, and actually enjoys more of my least favorite sections in the library, on a whole other level from me. We began to disagree more, coming from totally different perspectives, not understanding each other, we gradually wandered off more and more to our desired sections of the library. I began to wonder who this person was, how did we ever get along, and what the heck am I doing here in this section alone, resentful and confused? Did I even have the energy or the will to enter my partner’s section? And why can’t he come to my section more?…

You can read my blog How couples can thrive through parenting…to learn what motivated me to go to my partner’s section more and it wasn’t till about the 14th year of being together that I felt we got in the same book. Now into our 21st year, we actually get on the same page and even same line on a regular basis, on many subjects. We still need and enjoy our favorite sections yet we now value and visit each other’s sections often as well created new sections together. We sing and dance as a family.

All my research in relationships, neuroscience, trauma, and attachment gave me faith that it was worth the discomfort and seemingly endless, intense discourse. Seeing how our children relate and reflect on our relationship and family is music to my ears and daily living proof. One comment that sticks out that my son made was, “I use to think you and Dad argued a lot, then I started to notice other families and wow, do others not get along. You two really try to understand each other and work it out.” He was moved to share this with me as his dad and I were in the middle of one our discourses, each taking space to calm down and he wanted to provide encouragement. What he noticed is my legacy that I have worked passionately to give my children and everyone I work with: Anything is possible when we feel safe and understood. Let go, fear less, love more and trust the process. Deep breaths, baby steps ❤ Debra

Click here to discover Five Steps to a Positive Reframe

You can find more information about my experience here on my Vita.

I’ve added a video counseling service called Wecounsel. Now we can meet wherever it’s most convenient for you. All you need is a computer and broadband internet access. It’s secure and accepted by major health insurance companies.

Please visit Debra Wallace MS LMFT at Wecounsel to learn more. I can only see Illinois residents via Wecounsel.

International clients can find me at https://www.ring.md/doctor_profiles/debra-wallace

If you have any questions please contact me:

Debra@positivereframe.org

847.603.4677   USA

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Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

Children are sages…

After observing and working with hundreds of children as well as having my own, I have discovered:
1) Children are sages. They are naturally present and connected to their innate intelligence as well as have less negativity and filters that block their senses or distort their perceptions. They are also operating at different brain frequencies due to their developmental stage.
 
2) Due to their heightened sensitivities and lack of filters, any negative energy directed at them is often perceived as threatening and often unconsciously labeled as “YELLING at them” because that is how it feels to their being. This will naturally trigger the fight, flight or freeze stress responses (fight doesn’t kick in until about age 2).
 
3) “I’m bored” typically means that they are experiencing negative or uncomfortable feelings that they are unaware of and cannot identify.
 
4) “It’s weird” usually means that are aware of some negative or uncomfortable feelings but don’t know what they are or how to describe them.
 
5) All negative behavior comes from a state of stress and/or unmet need. Most often they are physiologically or emotionally uncomfortable and unable to identify or communicate their feelings/needs, as well as lack the skillset to get their needs met effectively. Even if they should know what to do because you’ve said it 100 times, when triggered into a state of stress, they are unable to access that part of the brain till they feel calm and safe.
 

meditation

Please treat children how you wish you were treated when you were young. It really makes a difference as you are programming their brains for love or fear and what is done to them, they will do to society.
 
Check out my post summarizes common stressors and Enriching Resiliency & Connections as a family.
 
Take Wonderful Care,
Debra
 
Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA and provide online counseling at WeCounsel.com
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Five steps to a Positive Reframe

We are all doing the best we can with the resources we are aware of or have access to. Negativity (ie. negative emotions, unhealthy habits, tension, conflict, symptoms, disease) often comes from a build-up of unprocessed stress, perceived threats (real or imagined), unconscious negative core beliefs, toxins, and/or unmet needs. You need to take time to process, nurture yourself, and send positive messages to your body, mind, heart, and relationships in order to connect and heal.

Here are five steps to a Positive Reframe:

1. Breathe

Put your hand on your heart and breathe deeply. Notice the breath enter your nose and fill up your body as far as the your breath can reach, then breathe slowly out through your mounth as long as you comfortbly can. Notice the presure of your hand on your heart and the rise and fall of chest as you breathe. There is no wrong or right here. Your brain and body are working to protect you so it is normal to still have thoughts or urges to distract you. Keep focusing on your breath. Repeat atleast three times as needed. Breathing is like pressing the reset for your central nervous system getting oxygen to all your cells, calming you down, connecting to your heart and body whilst empowering your wise mind. Your breath is also the only automatic nervous system function that you can control. Click here to see a breathing exercise video I made.

2. Give yourself permission

Give yourself permission to just be and feel whatever you are experiencing with compassion, non-judgment, and curiosity. 

Notice what are you feeling? … angry, afraid, sad, frustrated, embarrassed, conflicted, confused, hurt, mistrusted, insecure etc…

Notice sensations in your body, where do you feel tight or heavy? cold or hot? shaky or stiff?   http://www.new-synapse.com/aps/wordpress/?p=63

What are you needing?…safety, honesty, connection, support, understanding, trust, security etc… Here is a link to Non-Violent Communication NVC Feelings and Needs shortlist

All feelings and needs are valid. Even though thoughts and emotions seem very real, they are not always true. Give yourself permission to step back, take a break or say “No.” Listen to your heart and do what feels right for you in that moment.

3. Process

We need to take time to consciously & actively PROCESS negativity. Too often we get use to relying on our default defense mechanisms, we ignore, dismiss, avoid, run, hide, blame, fight, or numb ourselves…Negative events, feelings, & thoughts then accumulate affecting every part of our life. Find safe ways to reflect on and process your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and events… like what happened right before feeling a wave of emotions and disturbance? Did you notice any stress signals in your body before reaction? What reoccurring thoughts or feelings keep coming up? What is the earliest memory you have of a similar event, or feeling this way or thinking these thoughts? What needs do you wish were met then or what do you want to believe about yourself now?

Engage in an activity that lets you process as well as creates a sense movement and feedback like talking with someone you trust, go for a walk, journaling, feel your heart beating, hug a friend, paint, play music, dance, exercise… the list is endless and unique to each individual.

If you do not have time to fully process triggering event, disturbing emotions or thoughts, at the very least, visualize putting them in some sort of imaginary container (i.e. treasure, chest, suitcase, jar), then put your hand on your heart and take at leat three deep breaths. Or you can visualize your favorite place to be like where you feel most safe, happy, and free to be you. Go through all your senses while visualizing this place…What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste?

If still feeling too overwhelmed (unable to calm down or focus) do a neurovascular hold by placing one palm of hand on your forehead and the other palm of the hand at the base of your neck and take more deep breaths and holding for 3-5 munites. 

4. Affirm* what is or you wish to be true

Take time to visualize and feel what you wish to be experiencing. Was there a time when what you are wanting did happen? Notice how good and true it feels. What positive thoughts came to mind? You can also create personal affirmation statements in the present tense about your abilities, intentions, and desired outcomes. Repeat affirmation statements on a regular basis especially when under stress and triggered. 

“A good affirmation has five basic ingredients: it’s personal, it’s positive, it’s present tense, it’s visual, and it’s emotional.” ~ Stephen Covey

Examples:

“I can handle this.”

“I choose to make positive healthy choices for myself and/or family.”

“I chose a supportive partner and we are both willing to work towards our shared goals.” 

“I can help my kids feel safe by being present and responsive to their needs.” 

“I can find a way to express myself and get my needs met.”

Click here for an example of my personal affirmations…

all is well quote meme

*Initially, saying affirmations may feel awkward or uncomfortable or untrue. I have found that the more uncomfortable it feels, then the more likely this is an area that needs our attention. You may still try it out or create a new one that feels more comfortable and true to you.

5. Express Gratitude

Yes, life is filled with uncertainty and negativity yet I have found that difficult times have immense value in our lives and create opportunities. It is easier to see the bright side when your suffering has been genuinely acknowledged and processed fully which are achieved through the first four steps. If your struggling to find anything to be grateful for, then go back through the steps. Take time to discover ways to appreciate the hidden value for yourself, loved ones, job, or current stressor. For example, getting sick gives you an opportunity to stay in bed and rest which you may not have weaved rest time into your life. Focus your attention on what you feel blessed for and what you want more of like what brings you feelings of joy, peace, connection, and clarity. This becomes more beneficial practiced daily.

I believe that we are all born inherently good and connected to our innate intelligence which is love-based. Those who seem “bad” have more pain to heal, toxins and stressors to process, and vital needs to meet. We have good intentions yet we are often thwarted by our internal suffering, unprocessed toxins, our fears, and negative reactions. Every interaction is an opportunity to nurture, heal, and grow. Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you. ❤ Debra

If you’d like support, clients can find me at OFFICITE

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Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers,  as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA

Earth Day is every day…

Littering has always been one of my pet-peeves. On a walk back from the beach one day, where we had cleaned up trash, my then 6yr old son raced back home as my 2 yr. old daughter and I lagged behind. My daughter spotted a beer bottle in our path, exclaimed “garbage” and darted to grab it. My mind instantly flooded with worry…what if she cuts herself? the germs? What would people think if they saw her holding a beer bottle!?

Yet, my heart wondered how I could tell her “no”? How confusing the message would be if it was OK to pick up trash at the beach but not here. Was it worth scolding to thwart a genuine gesture? She joyfully picked it before I could finish this internal debate. I thanked her and asked if I could hold it for her. She refused as she was determined to throw it in the bin herself.

“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions,then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.”

I took a deep breath and chose to let it be, yet struggled to stop worrying. I kept thinking about what if someone took a snapshot of this little girl holding a beer bottle. Would they call human services on me? How sad it would be that people could judge me without any context and awareness of the level of introspection that has gone into this moment.  I felt angry at myself that instead of celebrating my daughter’s level of consciousness and sense of accomplishment, I was stuck in fear.

I was reminded of this story when on another outing my kids spent 20 minutes cleaning up cigarette butts from our downtown area. My son was going off on how people could treat the earth like this. I started to worry again but couldn’t get them to stop cleaning so I finally joined in.  We made a game out it and it felt good.

There have been times where I did make some excuse about why we shouldn’t pick up litter and my son expresses, “It hurts my body to see the trash on the ground and have to leave it there.” I get teary-eyed just repeating that statement. Both my children truly understand that the world is not a garbage can and take responsibility to make it beautiful.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”― Jane Goodall

A glimpse into one boy’s emotional development

When my son was six years old, I had two teachers suggest that my son was “emotionally immature.” Honestly, these complaints were very hard for me to swallow on many levels, especially since I am passionate about emotional intelligence and helping children to cope with emotions.

I, as respectfully as possible, accepted and validated their comments because of course, he is emotionally immature: he’s six years old. I felt defensive, shocked and angered. I just wanted to rip my son away from these people who I had entrusted to care for him. I even home-educate my son because most affordable school environments, in my opinion, are emotionally neglectful and abusive.

I internally chewed long and hard on their statements. I really had to grieve this situation. I typically blame myself whenever negative situations occur and worried intensely if I had messed up somewhere… I felt guilty for adding stress to the teachers; Was I crazy for teaching him to question authority and share his feelings? From their point of view and context, I could see where they were coming from yet it sickened me that this is the mind frame of most.

I want to just shine a bright light on the world about emotional development… You see society tends to think that one is emotionally mature because they handle their emotions. This is true to a degree, but one needs to have opportunities to express their emotions in order to learn how to handle their emotions in various settings and relationships.  There is a learning curve for every new dynamic or experience.

It seems we give kids until about the age of one to three years old to work this out, then we demand they listen and obey us without whining or tantrums. Sadly, what many think as an emotionally mature child is one who is appearing obedient under the guise of actually feeling fear and freezing (like in a state of fight, flight or freeze). They don’t know what to do but have learned that more negative energy will be directed at them if they don’t just stop.  Eventually, this leads to suppressing emotions and even dissociating when triggered in stressful environments. Far worse consequences and dysfunctional patterns develop from here.

Here’s is one my favorite quotes about emotional development and children:

“What is a normal child like? Does he just eat and grow and smile sweetly? No, that is not what he is like. The normal child, if he has confidence in mother and father, pulls out all stops. In the course of time he tries out his power to disrupt, to destroy, to frighten, to wear down, to waste, to wrangle, and to appropriate…At the start he absolutely needs to live in a circle of love and strength (with consequent tolerance) if he is not to be fearful of his own thoughts and his images to make progress in his emotional development.”

-Donald W. Winnecott, The Child, The Family, and the Outside World

https://www.theschooloflife.com/article/the-great-psychoanalysts-donald-winnicott/

Now, back to my sweet, sensitive son… Anyone who knows him well has seen his empathetic, kind, and resilient nature as well as his ability to regulate himself. He started initiating group hugs when he was two and doing the meditative “umm” when he was in pre-school to calm down. He made a dragon from Legos to guard his baby sister’s ashes and deeply mourned the loss of his great-grandma. When I am stressed, he echoes the words of the sage in me. He’s my buddha boy, and this is just a quick snapshot of the gracious qualities he shines upon his family and dearest friends.

During this same period of time, my son was overwhelmed by contradictory messages. He would complain about how come he often sees other kids hitting other kids and their siblings. I validate that it is confusing and may seem unfair yet stress he has learned a special skill and can control himself even when he feels so angry. I describe how many others are still in the process of learning to control their emotions and behaviors and how their brain gets flooded and they can’t get to their loving, smart files.

He also would ask why he cries so much but no one else seems to cry. He agonized about what’s wrong with him and feels stupid that he cries so easily. I validate his pain yet stress that he cries because he has a big heart: he cares so much about what people think of him and the quality of work he produces. That although he appears weak and dramatic by society’s expectations for “normal boy” behavior, he is indeed strong, brave, spirited and willful. Sadly, with so few kids to empathize with him, he was starting to wish he didn’t care so much.

Another sad part of all this is that when a kid, or even an adult for that matter, is being emotional, that can actually be a sign of trust; that they feel somewhat safe to process their hard and vulnerable feelings with you.  Emotional outbursts are opportunities for connection and growth yet we as listeners can’t often handle the feelings. We feel too uncomfortable and just want to contain them as quickly as possible. Teachers fear they are disturbing the learning environment instead of seeing it as an intense learning experience. Even with my successful experiences of utilizing intense emotions, I still get triggered by fear and just want to stop the discomfort and run away. It is also hard to be compassionate and present with an angry child especially when the child in you just wants to fight back.

The next time a child is giving you grief, take a deep breath and give them the gift of your presence, attention, a warm embrace, a shoulder to cry on and listen to. You don’t even need to think of things to say just be still, present and listen. If it feels right, reflect only on what you are hearing them say like identifying feelings.

‎”When children feel understood, their loneliness and hurt diminish. When children are understood, their love for their parent is deepened. A parent’s sympathy serves as emotional first aid for bruised feelings. When we genuinely acknowledge a child’s plight and voice her disappointment, she often gathers the strength to face reality.” ~Haim Ginott

Below are resources on supporting boys:

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/04/how-raise-boys/587107/

http://michaelthompson-phd.com/books/raising-cain/

https://www.stevebiddulph.com/Site_1/Home.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/11/17/boys-emotional-support_a_23280737/

Be Worried About Boys, Especially Baby Boys

The Truth About Parenting Teen Boys

Here’s also a video on how important it is to meet emotional needs

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

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Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, and referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA